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Facing Racism in New Mexico
An Albuquerque organization is at the cutting edge in the fight against "institutionalized racism," today's writers say. The Anti-Racism Training Institute of the Southwest will display its methods during a series of workshops beginning Friday.
By Diana Dorn-Jones and Vicki Plevin (Reprinted from The Albuquerque Tribune, September 12, 2002)
Did you know that "race" is a verb, not a noun?
Human beings "race" one another for political, social and economic reasons. There is no genetic code for race. Nor is there a scintilla of scientific evidence that racial classifications exist in nature.
Did you know that the highest courts in the land struggled in vain for decades to define "white," as in the "white race?" The courts tackled this question again and again, in order to determine which immigrant groups could or could not become naturalized U.S. Citizens. In the end, it was sort of like pornographythey couldn't define "white," but they knew what it was when they saw it.
When was the last time you talked about race to someone of a different race? As a Boulder, Colo., teenager recently remarked on a "20/20" television production, "Race is not something people are used to talking about up-front."
So often we don't tackle the issue of race head on. Instead, we talk about valuing diversity and multicultural awareness, while we sink deeper into the kind of society the Kerner Commission described in its 1968 report as "separate and unequal."
The Anti-Racism Training Institute of the Southwest at the Institute of Public Law is all about having that conversation.
The institute initiates hard conversations about race, with the goal of building alliances among all racial, ethnic and cultural groups. We believe it will take broad and inclusive multi-racial cooperation to uproot the forms of racism that remain with us today.
We all know the statistics: New Mexico is one of the nation's poorest states, with one of the highest populations of people of color. People of color have less access to health care, less access to credit and capital, higher poverty rates, poorer educational outcomes and higher incarceration rates.
There is compelling evidence that racism drives these statistics. The most insidious forms of racism are often invisible to the naked eye. We recognize and reject the most blatant forms of socially unacceptable or illegal bigotry, but racial inequality has been institutionalized and thereby legitimized. It is embedded in the policies and practices of America's institutions and rationalized by blaming the victim.
The Anti-Racism Training Institute of the Southwest grew out of the work of Albuquerque Project Change, a multi-racial, multi- cultural organization founded 10 years ago to address institutional racism in Albuquerque and three other cities across the nation.
Institutional racism is different from individual bigotry or prejudice. It is systemic. It is the intentional or unconscious subordination of specific racial groups through organizational practices and norms.
Over a 10-year period of educating and organizing, it has become crystal clear to Albuquerque Project Change that a major barrier to undoing racism is the lack of a shared analysis about what racism is. We found that even some of the most well-meaning people can't agree about the basic definition of racism and, therefore, cannot build alliances to uproot it.
The institute came about to help the community view racial inequality through a different lens and to promote communication across the races by developing a shared vocabulary and analysis.
We operate in partnership with the national office of Project Change and the Institute for Democratic Renewal in California. The Anti- Racism Training Institute of the Southwest contributes to the national dialogue about racism in the United States today. It is the first of a growing network of similar institutes that engage communities in a unique approach to undoing racism. Other anti-racism training sites in the national network are under way in Seattle, New Orleans and Fort Lauderdale.
The institute is unique in several ways. We talk about and confront race and racism in a multi-racial context.
However, it is one thing to talk about race and racism in the abstract. Another path is to examine the specific local institutions that have different outcomes for different racial groups.
The institute addresses four issues health care, education, the legal system, and community and economic development. We target institutions with an impact on these issues, because these are the issues that most profoundly affect the well being of all New Mexicans.
The Anti- Racism Institute of the Southwest examines institutional policies and practices under a microscope to uncover how each of them perpetuates racial inequality and what action is required for change.
Training and education.
Since its inception, Project Change has been widely recognized for its innovative training by various national institutions, including President Clinton's Initiative on Race.
As a result of President Clinton's Initiative, the Institute for Democratic Renewal in California led a team of researchers, who visited 14 programs that had been identified as "best practices" in anti- racism work. Following a study of the 14 sites, four projects were chosen for the establishment of anti-racism training institutes. Albuquerque Project Change became one of the institutes, as did the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond in New Orleans.
The Anti-Racism Training Institute of the Southwest and the People's Institute have since become partners in developing a four-day training program.
The People's Institute is a national network of seasoned community organizers with decades of experience in undoing racism training. They have an international reputation for training that has transformed people from New Orleans to Belfast to Johannesburg to New Mexico.
The People's Institute training workshop comprises the first two days of most Anti-Racism Training Institute of the Southwest training. The workshop exposes the historical roots of racism and its grip on society today, while providing concrete tools for change.
The underlying premise of the workshop is that, because racism was "done" by people, it can be "undone." However, racism can be undone only when we understand how it happened in the first place. This foundational, two-day workshop unearths the historical origins of racism, teaching explicitly how, when, where and why racial hierarchies have been established and maintained in the United States.
Following the two-day People's Institute workshop, the Anti-Racism Training Institute of the Southwest conducts two additional days of training. First, we examine how racism is manifested in target institutions that have an impact on health, education, the legal system or community economic development. Because we at the institute don't claim expertise in every area, we convene the experts.
For example, this month, the Institute is partnering with District 1199 New Mexico of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, Health Action New Mexico and the Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign to present training in uprooting racial disparities in health outcomes. A nationally renowned epidemiologist, Camara Jones, will present the keynote address, entitled, "The Impact of Institutional Racism on Health." Jones is the research director on social determinants of health for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Other presenters will include legal experts and health advocates who will discuss the crisis in health care for people of color in New Mexico and health care issues for recent immigrants.
On the fourth day, we zero in on where the rubber hits the road action. Participants apply lessons learned during the previous three days to support multi-racial organizing efforts that are anti- racist.
This month's topics focus on health care organizing and advocacy, including media and communication strategies, legislative initiatives for health care equity, community organizing for health care equity and action planning for individuals and groups.
The Anti-Racism Training Institute of the Southwest puts training into action.
Our signature program is the Project Change Fair Lending Center, which addresses racial disparities in access to credit, capital and home ownership. The center has conducted non- discriminatory lending programs for financial institutions and has helped community groups enforce federal laws mandating that financial institutions invest in all communities where they take deposits.
Over 500 industry executives and staff have learned about the impact of discrimination on individuals, neighborhoods and cities by attending Fair Lending Center training. Programs also provide lenders with skills for implementing non-discriminatory lending policies and practices.
In addition, the Fair Lending Center has developed partnerships with such organizations as United South Broadway Corporation, New Mexico Community Development Loan Fund, CREDIT, New Mexico Public Interest Research Group, AARP New Mexico, ACORN and others to spearhead a statewide Campaign to Stop Predatory Lending.
Predatory lending practices disproportionately affect people of color in New Mexico and have mushroomed in the state over the last few years. Seeking to eliminate abusive practices and to promote anti-predatory lending legislation, the campaign reaches out to consumers and lenders across New Mexico.
"Justice" is also a verb. It is something we can't possess without action.
Whatever your race or ethnicity, if you want a better, healthier, more secure quality of life, you must do what you can to dismantle the racism that hurts and divides every one of us.
Have you ever thought about what role you can play in building a more democratic society? Here's your chance. Contact the Anti- Racism Training Institute of the Southwest at the Institute of Public Law by calling 277-8771, faxing 277- 5483 or emailing: email@example.com.
For more information about the National Network of Anti-Racism Training Institutes, contact:
John D. Maguire, Director and Senior Fellow
Institute for Democratic Renewal
Claremont Graduate University
Claremont, CA 91711
909-607-9220 FAX 909-607-9221 firstname.lastname@example.org
Shirley Strong, Executive
678 Thirteenth Street
Oakland, CA 94612
510-663-0148 - FAX 510-663-0153 email@example.com
Dorn-Jones is a founding member
of Albuquerque Project Change
and the Anti-Racism Training
Institute of the Southwest and is
executive director of the United
South Broadway Corporation. Plevin
is director of the Anti-Racism
Training Institute at the Institute of
To learn more about the Anti- Racism Training Institute of the Southwest at the Institute of Public Law, please call 277-8771, fax 277- 5483 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To comment to The Tribune on this topic, please write: Letters to the editor, The Albuquerque Tribune, P.O. Drawer T, Albuquerque, NM 87103. Fax us at 823-3869. Email us at: email@example.com.
This information was provided by: The Institute for Democratic Renewal.